Hiking the Herman Gulch Trail feels like entering a hidden kingdom. You and your pup are sure to feel like heroes of the frontier or explorers of old as you emerge into high alpine meadows and hidden dells filled with wildflowers. This high-altitude trail, which is part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, starts at 10,000 feet and only gets higher as you go. Follow little rivers and continue past glens of fairytale trees with curved trunks to reach the lake at the top, cradled in a bowl of mountains.
Herman Gulch is a premier wildflower trail designated as a "century hike,"
meaning in peak bloom season, you can see over a hundred species of
flowers in the course of this half-day hike. Bring a list! Along the way you can check off wild rose, green and white bog orchids, and aspen sunflowers. In the sheltering shade of willows, you might spot white geranium, arrowleaf senecio, and little pink elephants. Bighorn sheep and mountain goats can often be seen roaming among the flowers, as well as a passing marmot or pica or two.
If you favor blue Colorado columbines, you’re in for a treat here—the meadows along this route offer some of the most spectacular shows of the Colorado state wildflower you’ll ever see. Hundreds of clusters of elegant lavender-and-white heads sway in the wind, trailing delicate streamers behind each bloom. Just be respectful and leave the flowers alone to flourish and delight other hikers. Also remember to keep your dog on a leash and clean up after them to preserve this beautiful landscape.
While it's bereft of wildflowers in the winter, the Herman Gulch Trail is equally beautiful when it's covered with snow. Many people enjoy taking to the trail with snowshoes or cross-country skis. With careful research and the right equipment, including protective footwear and a doggie coat, you can bring your dog along in the winter, too. Just watch and be prepared to head back sooner than planned if they get tired from the taxing effort of walking in the snow.
The fact that this year-round paradise for nature lovers is less than an hour's drive away is one of many things that makes Denver such a puptastic city for people and their pets.